As a parent and grandparent, one of my favourite requests is, “Tell me a story.”
This weekend the power of story came home to me again while preparing to preach on one of the parables of Jesus.
It is one of the smallest of Jesus’s parables and focuses on something that is tiny but can have a big impact. The Parable of the Mustard Seed talks about a tiny seed that becomes a huge plant.
It is estimated that there are 750 mustard seeds in a gram, yet it grows with no cultivation like a roadside weed. A mustard plant emerges in 3 days, can grow up to a height of two to three metres and will produce seeds in 50 days.
“Tall enough for a fat sparrow who has picked up hundreds of these seeds for breakfast to teeter on its branches.” (Helmet Thielicke)
Too late for my sermon was this wonderful snippet from the latest castaway on Desert Island Discs, Michael Pollan, an award-winning writer on plants, nature and food. Lauren Laverne, the show’s presenter introduced him by saying,
“His lifetime’s work cultivating big ideas began with a single water melon seed that he planted when he was four years of age growing up in suburban Long Island. He says, “The whole idea that you could plant something and create something of value with sunlight, water and soil, and nothing else, to me this was a miracle. It still is a miracle.”
When Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of Heaven being like a tiny seed that produces phenomenal growth he was referring to the good news of Jesus Christ that begins with the announcement that a tiny speck of an embryo in a teenager’s womb was a beginning of the revolution that would turn the world upside down.
What is wonderful is that God still uses our prayers, witness, sermons and faithful actions to have an impact on our world.
It is interesting that part of the process of preparing a sermon is bumping into little stories that illuminate the passage I am preaching on. I read the following in the paper:
Rene Redzepi is the 45 year old owner of the Copenhagen restaurant Noma, has picked up three Michelin stars and the title “World’s best restaurant” several times. Yet despite all this success he has decided to close it down and reopen it with the name Noma 3.0 as a food lab developing innovative new flavours and sauces and creative ways to use seasonal food. He said:
“A carrot has the same value as caviar if you know how to cook and deal with it properly.” (p. 3 profile i Wed 11 Jan 2023)
That is right.
God can take what seems insignificant and ordinary turn it into something extraordinary.
The evening before preaching I watched a new film on Netflix. The Bank of Dave is a feelgood British film based on what the film makers describe as a ‘true-ish’ story. Dave from Burnley owns a successful business selling minibuses. During the 2009 recession he starts to offer loans to some of his customers who are strapped for cash. As a result, he decides to open a bank, but the only problem is that it appears to be all but impossible. Against all the odds, this tiny idea becomes reality and since its formation the Bank of Dave has given £30 million in loans.
Preachers need to be at home in the biblical story and the little stories of everyday life and learn how to make the connections that spark people’s imaginations and open a window on the truth.